How to Write A Great CV 16th February 2018
The most important thing about a CV is the personal statement, covered here.

After you have written your personal statement and put it front and centre, what else goes on a CV?

Before we go into that, let’s first look at the reason for writing one in the first place. A CV is written to help us get a job interview, there is not much more to it than that.

A really great CV is a really great CV and it will get you an interview.  But it will not make anyone’s mind up, you will have to do that at interview.

What goes on a CV? Anything that will help you get an interview.

There are far too many “do’s and don’ts” and “rules for a perfect CV” articles out there that more or less encourage you to create a boring and safe CV.

Before you go creating a pink and green CV on a circular piece of paper, boring and safe is not referring to the lay out! You are creating a professional document and you do need to bear in mind the reader when producing it. A clean and organised CV will make it easy for them.

Let’s take a look at what needs to go on a CV and some tips on how to make each part compelling.

A personal statement

Covered separately here and fundamental for getting the right kind of attention.

Work experience

Typically people include the company they worked for, their position and the dates (all fine) followed by a bullet point list of their responsibilities and achievements.

This is wrong for 2 reasons. Firstly, they cram in everything they do, which means too much and often irrelevant detail in the CV.

When sending a CV to a company, include only what is relevant to them. If I am applying for a creative position does it matter that I was responsible for “maintaining and organising the filing system”? Of course not, it is padding that detracts from the key messages.

Emphasise your key strengths and weaknesses in relation to that role and you will increase the chances that your CV will resonate with the reader. It also helps keep your CV to a reasonable length.

Does it take longer? Does it take more effort? Yes, I am afraid it does! But it will be worth it when you land your dream job!

Secondly, every item on the bullet pointed list may not get the attention it deserves. Break it down.  

Under each role you should include first, “key achievements”.

Something like “Led the sales team to 3 consecutive quarters of record sales” or “Consistently achieved highest accuracy ratings in data entry team”.

Next you can list “key responsibilities”.

The trick here is to describe the responsibility in a way that will show that you can transfer it to the job and company you are applying to.

Think about leading a team. An Army General will do it through ruthless discipline. A Creative Director will do it be allowing people to flourish within guidelines. Both are legitimate leader styles but both will not resonate with the same company. What is it about your responsibility that will resonate?

A final point on work experience: be specific.

Education & Professional Qualifications

The information you include about your education and where you put it will depend very much on your experience and what stage of your career you are at.

A school leaver or graduate without job experience will need to make their education prominent on their CV.

A 20-year qualified Finance Director may not include their school qualifications at all, they are unlikely to be relevant. Professional qualifications however will be very prominent.

Stick to the maxim: include only information that will help you get an interview.

Other information

Again, will it help you to get an interview? 

There will always be mixed opinions on how important the additional information included on a CV is; some will see it as a way of showing yourself as a more rounded person, whilst others will prefer to wait until the interview to learn about you. 

If you have spent time volunteering at a charity or spend your spare time studying your subject area you may feel that including this information will help you gain an interview.  If so, then include it but be sure to make what you write compelling.  

Finally, a word on presentation.

You need a clean and professional CV that is well ordered, your contact details should be front and center.  

Be sure to use bold and/or underlined fonts for the headings, as this will break up your CV and make it more digestible for the reader.  Too much text in varying fonts will make it confusing so keep to a maximum of 3 types across your CV. 

There are a wide array of templates and designs you can use that may help you get your CV looking really fantastic but you must be careful that the design does not distract the reader. 

Remember; the only reason to put something on or in your CV is if it will help you get an interview.  

Read more from our Dream Career Project news series here.